Area districts would see nearly $13M more under Wolf budget

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
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Luzerne County School Districts would receive nearly $13 million in additional state money under Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2019-20 education budget, with increases in both basic education and special education money.

The biggest winner, percentage-wise, would be Wilkes-Barre Area, which would see state funding shoot up 10 percent compared to this year.

There are a lot of caveats beyond the initial hurdle of getting the Democratic governor’s proposals past a Republican-controlled legislature.

The biggest bugaboo in Wolf’s education funding proposal is a plan to increase the minimum salary for public school teachers, from $18,500 to $45,000. Announcing the proposal, Wolf called it a “fully-funded mandate.”

In Luzerne County, according to data released with the budget proposal, the law will impact seven of 11 districts. Here are the districts and the amount the change will cost:

Crestwood, $10,940; Dallas, $123,157: Greater Nanticoke Area, $5,388; Hazleton Area, $178,526; Northwest Area, $19,655; Pittston Area, $38,471; Wyoming Area, $46,096.

Another caveat: Wolf’s proposal shifts money provided last year under the “Ready to Learn Block Grant” program to the Basic Education Funding budget line, and shifts money previously provided to offset money lost when students enroll in charter schools, putting it into the block grant category.

Both are bookkeeping moves, not changes in total money from the state.

The big changes are a total of $200 million for basic education funding and $50 million for special education funding. In Luzerne County, the former means increases ranging from $276,441 for Northwest Area to $3.3 million for Wilkes-Barre Area. The latter means increases from $32,224 at Northwest to $332,598 at Wilkes Barre Area.

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By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish